The First in What'll Probably Become a Series About Fight Over Crime Near Farmers Market

Back in May there was a story in The News about attempts to ID so-called "chronic offenders" downtown who are "having a hard time complying with the laws in Dallas and the rules of The Bridge," in the words of Deputy Chief Vincent Golbeck, who was promoted to Assistant Chief only today. The chief complainant in that story was a woman named Tanya Ragan, who says her company, Wildcat Management, tends to the empty building that was once Farmer's Grill on Park Avenue. She was also featured last week in this surreal CW33 report that would be unwatchable were it not so creepy.

Rudy Bush mentioned this earlier, but Ragan and some landowners near the Dallas Farmers Market have begun a campaign to get Dallas police to move a substation to the east side of downtown, where, Ragan says, there has been "criminal activity, vandalism, homeless issues and deteriorating property values since The Bridge opened in May of 2008." One year ago, DPD officials said just the opposite in Sam's cover story on the city's homeless shelter:

It's helping reduce crime. In The Bridge's first year of operation, downtown crime dropped 18 percent and violent crime fell by a whopping 40 percent. Dallas Police Deputy Chief Vince Golbeck, who oversees downtown and is a [Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance] board member, explains that a lot of the crime downtown -- especially violent crimes -- are homeless on homeless.

"The Bridge gives the police another avenue to place these individuals and gives them a choice," he says, "whereas before we'd have to take them to jail."

As a downtown beat officer with the Dallas Police Department for 14 years, Stace Hayward measures his progress by how much he uses his can of pepper spray. There was a time when he would replace his can every three weeks, but now he's been carrying the same one for four years.

Ragan says she recalls that article -- so much so she called Sam and had a "heated" argument over those stats. (Does this mean I have to call Sam to confirm?) Anyway, Ragan tells Unfair Park that Bridge officials "manipulate those numbers depending on their audience," and that she's called city and federal officials to complain. "It's a big smoke-and-mirrors game," says Ragan, who says thieves broke in and "tore apart" the former eatery earlier this year.

Ragan says a band of property owners near Farmers Market ("between 20 and 25") are offering everything from property to parking lots to get DPD to move its West End substation to the Dallas Farmers Market area. And while she won't say who paid for the newly installed billboard above, at South St. Paul and Cadiz Streets ("It was paid for by property owners within the farmers market community"), she says "we're desperate to try to get the situation under control, and having a police station isn't going to make MDHA put a policy in place, but having a police presence will send a message that crime won't be tolerated."

I spoke with one city official this evening who hadn't heard anything about this till today. Other calls are out. Which means: More to come tomorrow. Till then Ragan's initial message to the media follows.

Tanya Ragan's letter:

Latest in the Farmers Market neighbor's campaign to relocate the CBD Police sub-station to the farmer's market neighborhood on South St. Paul and Cadiz Street. The police need to be moved out of their current West End location by the end of August. The farmer's market neighbors have seen increased criminal activity, vandalism, homeless issues and deteriorating property values since The Bridge opened in May of 2008.

The Farmers Market area has seen further decline lately with the number of sex offenders and criminals "hiding out" at The Bridge and becoming more aggressive in their harassment and attacks on the area neighbors. Coincidently, the double sided billboard faces The Bridge second floor windows.

Neighbors feel a stronger police presence in this area will help improve the problems in this forgotten section of downtown Dallas (located just two blocks from City Hall), making it a less desirable area for criminals to congregate.

The proposed location on South St. Paul and Cadiz Street has excellent visibility, easy access to all major highways and is located in the heart of the City. It would send a strong message that police presence is active in the downtown area and that criminal activity will not be tolerated.

Farmer's market stakeholders began their campaign in early June when the South St. Paul and Cadiz location was announced as one of three possible locations. Neighbors began contacting Dallas Chief Brown, Chief Golbeck, Mayor Leppert and Council Members asking for their support of this South St. Paul location. Neighbors have even went as far as offering free use of land, buildings and parking to ensure that all the police needs are taken care of. The proposed South St. Paul location; along with two other possible locations are expected to go in front of city council sometime in late August/early September.

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